Months before planning this trip, it supposed to be a trip to Austria, to be specific Hallstatt, and Vienna, also Budapest. It was my initial planning actually. Then a month before, I said to my travel mate I am not joining her because I miscalculated my savings therefore a little bit under the budget. Basically, the plans were buried and she had to find other person to plan the trip. But news came out from everyone that Ryanair had cheap flight to Krakow, Poland. Literally 99 dinar for return ticket!!!!! and that was the craziest deal I ever had in five years.
There was no cheap flights from Jordan before. So I made up my decision and bought the ticket later that night on the same day. Unfortunately, the price went up a bit higher than before, in the end I managed to secure a seat for 130 JD (return tickets), but still it was cheap. There was one time I traveled to United Kingdom (tbs London), the price for the ticket could be as high as 300 JD alone. So I said to myself, I had to seize the chance and travel to Krakow this semester break.
So yes, I went to Krakow, Poland. Quite an introduction. Lol.
Reason why I chose Austria for my semester break trip because of the snow; and the amazing, picturesque white scenery of the snow and the village (i think you have seen some photos from quite popular places in Hallstatt), this might be my last chance at winter and snow. Second, I bought Sony A6000 mirrorless camera, it would be a shame not to put the camera on a test. That’s all. No other ‘academic’ purposes.
So Krakow is having, how to put it;- the worst weather in about … 8 years?? It’s snowing ‘aggressively’, I wonder if that even a correct word to use haha but yeah, it was 3 degree below freezing at time of my arrival. That’s pretty shocking and I’m not prepared.
At first, you’ll be awed, and amazed by it. (Malaysia doesn’t have winter, Jordan snowed once in a year but it melted quickly) but after two or three hours outside, you’ll come to hate it and suddenly you’ll miss the sun! But saying that, I survived below freezing degree.
Spending a week in Poland alone, I can say, there’s nothing much to do (but if you plan to go around Poland, and visit every city then it will be different). I went to Krakow and Zakopane only. You can plan your route to Poland plus to the neighboring country by bus/train;- Berlin, Czech, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria.
We stayed at Florianska Street (The Royal Route) once and at Dluga Street. Staying at Florianska Street meaning you are staying inside the old town. And to reach the main square by foot only takes about 5 minutes!!!
At Krakow, I joined free tour, you can check out their website freewalkingtour, they are quite famous all over Poland, you don’t have to pay for the tour but you can give the guide some tips, around 5 zlotys. But it all up to you of course. Along the course of my trip I joined three free walking tour, The Old Town, Jewish District and The Macabre Tour. They were all informative. It’s very easy to spot them at assembly point. This is one way to spend your time in Krakow.
And fyi, Krakow Rynek Glowny (Krakow Main Square) is the biggest one all around Europe. You can find the famous St. Mary Basilica, the Cloth Hall and The Tower Hall inside. The free walking tour of Old Town takes you around the square and that is plenty to see!
The history of Poland can be tracked down to 966. Krakow was one of the oldest city; and a former capital of Poland. Today, Warsaw serves as its capital. Throughout history, there had been many cities that had serve as capital; the oldest one would be Gniezno, former Krakow and now Warsaw. White Eagle serves as their coat of arms, and the word Gniezno means ‘nest’. There were a lot more story to Krakow city during the tour; about the famous King Casimir III the Great, the ST. Florian’s Gate and The Barbican that had never been taken down by invader. For a tour that last for 2 hours and a half and free, those were quite informative.
Other things you can do while in Krakow are visiting their Wieliczka Salt Mine, around 20 minutes by bus. Check the website for the entrance fee. I suggest to take Miner Route for a great experience but you should book it in advance. Recommended also to visit the Wawel Castle and Dragon Dens (but during my stay the Dragon Dens was closed). If you take the free tour for Old Town, the endpoint would be at The Wawel Castle.
Dragon was one of the famous folklore history of Polish people. Once upon a time ago, when King Krakus discovered a high place to set up his palace, he accidentally woke up a sleeping dragon underneath. The dragon demanded a human offering. Many of his knights could not kill the dragon so King Krakus offered anyone who could kill the dragon may marry his princess. Later, a shoemaker by the name Skuba came and killed the dragon by feeding it with sheep stuffed with sulfur. So, because dragon was mainly made of fire, it died a fiery death. And they lived happily ever after.
But well of course, there should exist many versions of it.
I took a full day to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, but the story about it will be in my next entry. It was an emotional visit and a great closer to my trip.
It is easy to navigate Krakow. To get to the main city of Krakow from the airport, the easiest and fastest way is to take train to Krakow Glowny (Krakow Main Station). It costs about 9.00 Zloty. However due to ongoing constructions of the trails, the train may be delayed at any time. You should check the timetable for MPL train to plan your route. There is other option with bus but you should check the bus lines and fares, and how to buy tickets at the ticket machines. If you want to buy while onboard, you should have exact changes.
About the food, well in every country I visit I’ll try to eat more of their traditional food. So, this time I ate Pierogi, in other word: dumplings. To my luck, the Christmas Market was still there. So I tried a plate of 10 pieces homemade Pierogi for 17 zlotys. They have many fillings and of the famous one is Ruskie– stuffed with cottage cheese, potatoes and onions. We ordered two kind of pierogi; another one is Cabbage with Mushrooms. One drink worth to try while in Poland is mulled wine. According to our tour guide, any bars or pubs will serve a decent mulled wine. Don’t buy the one from the Christmas Market. Recommended also a famous soup but I forget the name of the soup. Haha.
I am an avid fan of cheese. I love cheese. So they have this famous Polish cheese called Oscypek; made from smoked salted sheep milk. It was served exclusively in Tatra Mountains. Of course I had to try it. Hahaa. So I, together with a friend bought a small piece of it for 1.5 zloty. Gosh, I would not eat it even one bite. It’s ssooooooo salty and the smell of the smoked cheese was more to a smell of A SMOKED SHEEP! My olfactory receptors were definitely damaged. haha! but I guess there must be a reason why Oscypek is famous. You guys have to try it or else you wouldn’t know.
I spent most of my days in the week at Krakow. We went to Zakopane for the cable car and hiking (was supposed to tsktsk) to the Morskie Oko lake. But we did not know the weather would be this bad. Because we booked accommodation in advance, it would be a waste of money to not visit there. And of course the story about Zakopane is in the next entry teheee!
Conclusions, Poland is a nice place to spend your holiday. A must visit county. The Polish people I met are very helpful and friendly. That’s why I highly recommend for any of you who is planing on solo travelling, this is a great place! Not only because of the people, but because of the navigation made easy! They have buses and trams for 2.80 zloty. Their Krakow Glowny; the main station is very big and comfortable. You can find buses and trains to all places. However the souvenirs can be a little bit pricey. Plan your financial well. I managed to spend 320 JD – that includes flight tickets, accommodations and souvenirs, exactly my budget. You can spend less than that if you can manage well.
It was a great stay. I would totally recommend.
Signing off- Acoffeety